Saturday, November 26, 2011

Dan Wallace on "all"

Daniel B. Wallace says:
October 28, 2011 at 11:23 pm

Second, it is true that ‘all’ can often mean something broader than what is indicated in the immediate context. The problem is the ‘but’ in [1 Thes 5:]v 21: it is immediately connected with the preceding two verses. Verses 16-18 comprise one unit of thought, one sentence, finished off with “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Verses 20-22 comprise the next unit of thought, five staccato-like commands in a row. The most natural way to read the text is thus as a unit with every command in vv 20-22 relating to the same subject. If you take the ‘all’ in v 21 as referring to vv 12-19 you miss the pointed warning that Paul gives to these believers in vv 20-22. Further, ‘all’ in Paul must be contextualized. The ‘all in v 15 (“be patient toward all”) is referring to those in the church, as John implied when he spoke of this whole section as dealing with intra-ecclesial relationships. But couldn’t we say that Paul believed that we should be patient toward all people? I suspect we could, but it would be illegitimate to use v 15 to make that case. Grammatically, it could even expand to cover all sentient creatures–including the devil and demons–but I really don’t think you want to go there! No, we must ask what is the context in which Paul’s ‘all’ is found? Does he make a coherent, self-contained argument? Vv 20-22 present just that, suggesting that it’s probably reading too much into the text to say that the ‘all’ means more than false teaching.


  1. "Do not quench the Spirit;
    Do not despise prophecies;
    But examine all things: cling to the good, abstain from every form of evil"-Paul

    The context here is quite clear.

    False doctrine is the leaven, that we need to cut out, and yet allow for good doctrine, and healthy preaching, so we can be edified and encouraged. But not every pastor-teacher is a genuine one, and we need to examine, as the Bereans did:

    "...the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what "Paul" said was true."

  2. Isn't "all" ALWAYS a qualified word in the English language? I mean... when does it actually mean ALL the things?? I always wonder why people have such a hard time with that.